One day along the Grand Pacific Drive
Weave your way down the spectacular coastline from Sydney to Kiama.
The Grand Pacific Drive is one of Australia's prettiest road trip routes, taking you through rainforests, seaside villages and curving coastline.
It begins with the raw wilderness of the Royal National Park just an hour south of Sydney. Just one day along this incredible road will treat you to waterfront eateries, Insta-worthy lookouts and the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge – a sleek curve of highway that hugs the steep escarpment and sweeps out over the Pacific Ocean.
Here’s how to spend a day driving the Grand Pacific Drive.
Grand Pacific Drive highlights
8 am: Hit the road early and drive about 36 kilometres (22 miles) south of Sydney via the Princes Highway to catch the Grand Pacific Drive. You’ll soon find yourself within the eucalyptus trees, secluded beaches and coastal cliffs of the Royal National Park. Make your first stop the heritage Audley Dance Hall, a quaint café perched on an expansive grassy area for lounging.
10 am: From here, the 140-kilometre (87-mile) trip winds past surf beaches, pockets of green paddocks and seaside towns. Make sure you stop and stretch your legs while taking in the view from Stanwell Tops; you'll find one of the best coastal hang-gliding locations in the world at Bald Hill. Next, drive 20 minutes to Austinmer. Along the way, the spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge will come into view.
11 am: Explore the seaside towns of Austinmer and Thirroul; they lie within minutes of each other. Peruse the boutiques, coffee shops and antique centres before stopping for tea or coffee at Austi Beach Café. For on-the-go beach fare, Bread Espresso turns out modern milk bar favourites like butterscotch milkshakes and cheese toasties with harissa mayo.
12:30 pm: Your next destination is Wollongong, just a 25-minute drive south. Nestled between the mountains and the ocean, Wollongong offers the best of city, coastal and country lifestyles. For lunch, venture down a laneway to His Boy Elroy, a burger joint with an Americana menu of cheeseburgers and fried chicken. If you want an ocean view and modern Australian cuisine, try Diggies, which offers all-day breakfast, salads and seafood. For craft beer, Five Barrels brewery and taproom offers tours and tastings.
2 pm: Walk off lunch with a stroll along Wollongong City Beach with its soft sand, clear waters and superb surf. You could also take a peek inside Wollongong Art Gallery, an Art Deco building housing thousands of artworks including Aboriginal collections and documents of local Illawarra history. It’s one of the largest regional galleries in Australia.
3 pm: Travel another 30 minutes south of Wollongong to the beachside hamlet of Kiama, famous for serene coastal walks, sophisticated seaside dining and the extraordinary Kiama Blowhole. The blowhole is a natural rock formation where seawater shoots through and upwards, sometimes 20 metres (65 feet) into the air. You’ll find it along the picturesque Kiama Coastal Walk.
5 pm: There are some pretty shops in Kiama with a mix of beach-style fashion, homewares and organic providores. Spend the afternoon collecting breezy kaftans from Bombo and gourmet goodies from Heart & Sol Organics. If you like heritage architecture, stroll by the Historic Terrace Houses on Collins Street, some of which date back to 1886.
6 pm: Enjoy a drink and early dinner with a side of ocean views at Penny Whistlers, located just across from Black Beach. Dine on classics such as fish and chips, nachos and quesadillas and soak up the golden sunset.
7:30 pm: Further up the hill, immerse yourself in art and food at Little Blowhole Art Bar. The friendly team serve tapas and host art exhibitions in a contemporary space with sweeping countryside and ocean views. From here, you can head back north to Sydney, or spend the night at Kiama Harbour Cabins.